The Ridgeway is a national trail in the south of England. It is 85 miles (137 km) long and has been in use for over five thousand years.
People have walked the Ridgeway for millennia. It was originally part of a two hundred and fifty mile prehistoric track stretching from the Wash in Norfolk down to the Dorset coast. This route followed the high ground which was less wooded and drier than the surrounding countryside. Although much of this trail has been lost the Ridgeway remains as a national trail to this day.
The first British farmers left their burial grounds round the Ridgeway five thousand years ago in the new stone age. However it was not till around 2000 BC that the huge Sarsen rocks were dragged down from the nearby hills to form Avebury Circle, one of the Ridgeway’s most famous sites. These Bronze Age men also built the huge low barrows along the length of the trail.
Between 500 BC and 43 AD when the Romans invaded Britain a number of hill forts where built on the high ground of the Ridgeway to defend the area from attack from the North.
In the Dark Ages the Vikings and Saxons fought many battles on the Ridgeway during their advances into Wessex and in Medieval times the Ridgeway was mainly used by farmers driving their livestock into England from Wales.
For most of its history the Ridgeway was just a wide collection of tracks and travelers chose which particular route they took. However during the Enclosures act of 1750 all the land around the Ridgeway was divided between a number of owners so the Ridgeway had to be clearly defined. Earth banks were built on either side of the track and thorn hedges were planted to stop livestock wandering into the newly defined fields.
The Ridgeway is divided into four sections:
- From Overton hill to Uffington Castle and the White Horse. (22miles, 35km)
- From Uffington Castle and the White Horse to Streatley. (21 miles, 33km)
- From Steatley to Chinnor. (21miles, 33km)
- From Chinnor to Ivinghoe Beacon. (21miles, 33km)
Some useless facts for your delight and delectation.
The Ridgeway is made up of four types of track:
The Ridgeway also boasts the following: